Under the Rock PC.indd

Under The Rock

Hardback, May 2018. Elliott & Thompson.

Paperback, 2019.

Carved from the valley side above Mytholmroyd in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and flat weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable, to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves would hide out; where the town tip once sat, suicides leapt to their death and the asbestos that claimed so many lives was buried in the soil. Scout Rock is also the subject of Ted Hughes’s 1963 essay ‘The Rock’, in which the poet describes growing up across the valley from “my spiritual midwife…both the curtain and backdrop to existence.”

Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the very meaning of place in modern Britain.

“The writing is perfectly poised and seductive, luminous, an earthy immersion into the granular dark of place, unveiling its shadows and its dark grandeur. The prose has an intense, porous quality, never overdone, but inhabiting the reader right from the stunning start with the voices of rock, earth, wood and water. This is a truly elemental read from which I emerged subtly changed. The writing has a shamanic quality; Benjamin Myers is a writer of exceptional talent and originality.. this book is not only a prose poem to a place in the most visceral sense, but in its synthesis of research and encounter it is also a great contribution to our understanding of place and our tangled relationship with it. This is one that will last, it has all the makings of a classic.” – Miriam Darlington

“Like the scrappier, punk version of Robert Macfarlane, [Myers] revels in both the attractions of the natural world and it’s less Arcadian aspects…The tussling ebb and flow between the bucolic and the baleful, between the natural and the man-made, gives the book a hallucinogenic energy…Under The Rock is never less than compelling; this a wild, dark grimoire of a book” – TLS

“This non-fiction work about landscape and literature is thoughtful, engaging an beautifully crafted…the writing is lyrical yet muscular and elemental, transporting the reader to this place of rugged beauty and dark secrets.” – Yorkshire Post, Books of the Year (2018)

“Place-writing at its most supple: both deeply considered, and deeply felt” – Melissa Harrison

“What distinguishes Under the Rock is Myers’ unshakeable commitment. He writes at all times with rock-solid conviction, fashioning a book which is less a work of simple description than a new contribution to the mythology of Elmet” – Will Ashon

“Richly layered, densely and elegantly structured, discursive, elegiac and beautiful. Under The Rock is a stunning exploration of place, mind and myth.” – Jenn Ashworth

“I really, really loved Under The Rock, and thought it truly stands out among other recent books in this genre. It confirms Ben as one of the most original and engaging British authors currently writing about landscape. He describes brilliantly the emotions that nature and place trigger in us, and the endless fascination we have with them. It’s a bone-tingling book about both a beautiful location, and about the nature of our engagement with our environment.” – Richard Benson

“A great invention of the self as the spirit of the place, and good addition to the new nature writing – doll’s arms, asbestos, floods, myths, dog shit, Ted Hughes and all.” – Melvin Burgess

“One of the many joys of Under the Rock – this absorbing, compelling, moving book – is its language; it trickles like a rivulet, thunders like a cataract, and sticks to you like mud. It is full of crannies and dips and peaks wherein wonders hide; explore it for a lifetime and you will not exhaust its mysteries. That is how deeply the landscape which Myers addresses has embedded itself into his sensibilities. He has a raptor’s eye; gulping, expansive, and, when required, capable of the finest, most intensely focussed forms. Unafraid of blood-drenched history and the darkest of despair, this is nonetheless a defiantly life-praising book; it accompanied me to bed and bar, train and plane, and each situation was enriched and brightened by its presence. Amongst a wider socio-political debasement of our language and a systemic undermining of its capacity to express the truth of commonality, this is utterly vital. In the truest sense of that word.” – Niall Griffiths

“Benjamin Myers’s celebration of the ‘tainted Eden’ of Calderdale is a model of close, loving attention, and a tribute to land and language – a beautiful reminder that one person’s ‘edge land’ is another’s centre” – William Atkins

“Whilst we all get excited by such wonderland excursions as Blue Planet, Myers gently reminds us of the green planet to be found in the mould of his office wall, the grime beneath fingernails,; the heaven in a wild flower, to quote William Blake – Blake, perhaps, an over-written Myers of a previous age, buried deep in the sod, now revealed only in the exposed vertical strata of library books…a book to be seen reading in the sixth form common room, an author to adopt as your own, a book to turn others on to. Classic rock. A detailed complex beautiful Van Der Graphic adventure, a Jethro Tale.” – Cally Callomon, Caught By The River

“Thoughtful, engaging and beautifully crafted…a totally compelling read, that is laced throughout with a subtle wit. Myers is an astute observer of human behaviour.” – Yorkshire Post

“Myers turns his focus to nature with absording results…” – The i

Under the Rock is a visionary work  of immense power and subtlety which establishes Myers as one of Britain’s most consistently interesting and gifted writers. Like William Blake, he shines a light on the darkness beyond – and the darkness within.” Neil Mudd, The Morning Star

“The prose becomes as relentless as the rain and the rivers, and there is a genuine empathy and bewilderment….This is a startling, unclassifiable book. Perhaps my favourite moment is when Myers is returning home and sees in the dusk ‘a shape up ahead’. Thinking it a minatory crow, which ‘does not take fright in flight’, guarding the hill, there is a sublime bathos when he discovers it is ‘neither bone nor crow but a scrap of plastic, snagged, an empty bag. Flapping with laughter’. The merging of the industrial, the supernatural and the bucolic is what marks this book out as a new step in the ‘New Nature Writing'”. – Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

“Myers’s talent for a certain sort of MR James-style English noir creeps into his work in a way that feels uncomfortable….elsewhere, however, poetry, photography and field-notes intersperse the narrative to great effect. A compelling creative exploration of a place and its past” – Irish Times

“Few are as impressive as the formidable Benjamin Myers, who has developed a voice as pure and authentic as it is stark, commanding and resolutely northern…his often alliterative lyricism – a seemingly effortless style which must demand hours of headachey commitment – creates an overall sense of dreamy, quiet beauty, born of love for the lie of the land.” – Jane Graham, The Big Issue

“Myers is a poet of the fly-tip … Although rich in local history, and structured around the elements of wood, earth, water, rock, this is a book of emotional archeology that returns repeatedly to the author’s tussle between resurrecting the past, and his consciousness of mortality; between his ecstatic levity and morbid streak … Myers has a fabulous eye for the lives of the people around him”Will Cohu, The Oldie  

“Myers’s prose is outstanding throughout the book … A fine way into Myers’s fiction, a glimpse into the real-life influences that make him tick and have come together so brilliantly in his 2017 novel, The Gallows Pole. What he does with Under the Rock is place Scout Rock and Mytholmroyd firmly on the literary map, and perhaps in a much more concrete way than Ted Hughes did before him.”Hong Kong Reviews of Books

“Myers’s writing left me with a heart-wrenching desire to be there…like many who might’ve grown up in or around London’s satellite towns, further, still, into the South Downs, the West Country, the Midlands, the Pennines and the Lakes, and who’ve since relocated to the sprawl of the urban, creeping as it does over fields that were once tilled and ploughed and bled and cried into by people we can barely claim to have once known, I now feel a desperate urge to reconcile myself with the land, and to find my own place in it, in the same way that Myers does in this beautifully poetic, passionate and elegiac book.” – Harry Gallon, Minor Literatures

“A book about the landscape as a dissenter, a rebel. It’s an excellent book, and if this doesn’t put Ben Myers on everyone’s radar then I don’t know what will.” – Bookmunch

“I came away from this feeling like Myers could write anything – a thank-you note, a shopping list – and make it read as profound literature. Every sentence is well-crafted and memorable…’Writing is a form of alchemy,’ Myers declares. ‘It’s a spell, and the writer is the magician.’ I certainly fell under the author’s spell here.” – Shiny New Books